It may be difficult for some people to wrap their heads around the idea of bedbugs hopping off of a library book into their bed, but the Kenosha Public Library is taking the threat seriously.
“To my knowledge KPL has not had any experience with bedbugs in our buildings or our collections,” said library Director Barbara Brattin. “However, I do understand that the incidence of bedbugs in Wisconsin is on the rise.”
Infestations have been popping up at libraries across the country, which is forcing the Kenosha library system to address it. That’s a surprise to many library patrons like Danielle Morrow, who visits the Southwest branch weekly.
“I wouldn’t necessarily make the connection between bedbugs and library books. There definitely should be a public education,” Morrow said.
Mark Melotik, director of environmental health in the Kenosha County Division of Health, wants the library to seek professional help detecting the critters.
“I suggested they have monthly extermination as a maintenance program,” Melotik said. “They can see if anything happens and know what kind of bugs are around the building, which they haven’t done at this point.”
Melotik said bedbugs are in Kenosha at apartment complexes.
“It’s been going on for several years. There are probably more out there than we know,” Melotik said.
Wally Ross, operator of Racine-based Critter Gitters Pest Control, said it would be easy for the library to experience an infestation.
“If somebody takes home a book to a home that is infested and then leaves it lay by an infested area, they could think it’s a good hiding spot,” Ross said. “It could get in the book and may be taken back to the library.”
Easily seen by the naked eye, the lentil bean-sized adult bedbugs would most likely show up in a book. However, in other library systems, the bugs have been known to lay eggs in the spine of a book, which could be invisible. A telltale sign is the black pepper size spots the critters leave behind.
Kenosha resident Jessica McKay, who takes her 18-month-old daughter to the library weekly, said bedbugs from books never occurred to her.
“I’ve never heard of it. It makes sense. It is a little frightening,” McKay said. “I would hope they would catch it before it happened.”
Brattin said the library is considering an addendum to its Emergency Action and Recovery Plan manual. In the past, flooding has been the big threat to the library’s books, but now bedbugs could be added as a threat.
“We can do some simple precautions like place tack boards in areas where we handle a lot of books and see what types of bugs, if any, land there. That’s easy to do and we can get that started right way,” Brattin said.
Some libraries are heating books when they return to kill bugs. Melotik said while bedbugs are commonly associated with unsanitary conditions they are not dangerous.
“There is no known illness that is associated with a bedbug,” Melotik said. “It does not spread disease like a tick or a mosquito. It is more of a nuisance.”
Ross said bedbugs are becoming more common because of our mobile lifestyle.
“People in today’s society have to be as vigilant about bedbugs like looking over your shoulder for terrorists,” Ross said. “While bedbugs won’t kill you, they will make your life a living hell.”